Many people dream to have their own business and working from home. The benefits of working from home are clear: more time, less hassle, and best of all, no commuting. But is it really right for you, and how do you prevent it taking over your home and your life?
You can run a small Public Relation company from home, and your clients will not paying for big overheads. It would be more cost-effective for you ran the operation from an office in your home, rather than renting office space.
A lot of savings, no commuting time, more time with the family, it sounds like life is perfect. And it could be one of the biggest changes in how we live since the Industrial Revolution first drove people away from their homes to work. New report buyers opting to leave the car outside, making the garage into a place to work.
Of course, there is a difference between working at home as an employee and being self-employed. Employees still have the privileges and security of a regular salary; the self-employed who work at home may feel secure because no one company can make them redundant. Both can suffer isolation: employees because decisions are made in their absence (even if they only work at home two day a week) or because managers and colleagues don’t really trust the situation and the self-employed because they have no supportive regular team. How you adapt to either situation depends on your qualities.
For a number of people, it is a much more productive way to work – away from the distractions of the open-plan office more can be done. In one study there was an estimated 40% increase in efficiency in working from home.
But getting more done isn’t always the point. Lots of people appreciate work for social reasons, because the office has become the community. Instead of the postmistress, grocer and pub, there’s the post-room, the sandwich trolley, vending machine and canteen. The butcher’s queue may have gone, but the photocopier queue is just as gossipy, and the Monday morning meeting can provide real communication. For people with problems, the office provides an informal support system of friends who are interested in, but not involved with, the action. And where else are the estimated 55% of people who meet their partners at work going to find the love of their life?
Isolation is the key problem in working from home. Many people go to work to get away from home. Motivation is the next main problem. If you’re the sort of person who couldn’t get down to your homework – however interesting without your mother standing over you, you won’t make a success of working at home; or, if you hate what you do, unless you can set very clear targets.
But successful home-working depends on your company’s attitude as well as yours. Unfortunately, some schemes do fail – for example, if organizations don’t really trust people, or if they do it without proper planning. Managers who aren’t very good at managing by results – who judge the work by what they can see – are not going to adapt well. Good managers regard training people to use their time better and be more independent as delegation; bad managers think it’s losing control.
Computers, modems, faxes and e-mail mean that salespeople, designers, technicians and management, who work on different sites or with clients, can use a home office as their base, and come into head office when they need to – for meetings, for example. Home-working is not confined to technology industries.
The fast-growing trend for companies to employ a small core staff with everyone else on freelance contracts means there is an increasing need for self-reliance. Estimates show that in five years’ time, only 60% of workers will be employees and the rest will be self-employed, many working at home. The idea, of course, is that lean companies mean a healthy economy. But these overheads haven’t gone away- they’re just being transferred to you, the individual. While you gain by putting some of your expenses against tax, you lose contributory pension schemes, sick leave, holiday pay, health insurance and even training subsidies. Companies will train people for jobs they’re already doing, but they’re no longer going to train them for the next job, because the idea of moving up through a company hierarchy isn’t the pattern for the future. It’s now your responsibility to stay up to date. Training doesn’t come cheap, but ‘you can often put it against tax.
Nowadays technology means people, mail and files can be reached from anywhere, the office is changing; it’s becoming a place for meetings and ideas. You only have to see people walking along talking on mobile telephones to realize that the workplace can now be wherever you are.